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From Rhymes to Riches: The MC Grammar Journey

In the vibrant world where language meets rhythm, MC Grammar emerges as a beacon of inspiration for both the young and the young at heart. From the early pages of childhood reading adventures to commanding the stage with infectious beats, MC Grammar, also known as Jacob Mitchell, takes us on an extraordinary journey bridging education and hip-hop culture.

This interview delves into the chapters of MC Grammar’s life, from the avid reader with a single English GCSE to the influential teacher empowering the next generation. As he gears up for his headline tour, “Stop! It’s Grammar Time!”, and unveils the power-packed anthem “Readers are Leaders” for World Book Day, we explore the intersections of music, education, and philanthropy in his dynamic career.

Join us as we unravel the beats and rhymes that not only transformed MC Grammar’s life but also continue to reshape the landscape of learning for countless children. From overcoming challenges to inspiring others to follow their passion, this is a narrative of resilience, creativity, and the unwavering belief that, indeed, readers are leaders.

Can you share a bit about your upbringing? What role did books and education play in your early years?

I was always an avid reader as a kid. I loved picture books (Where the Wild Things Are was my favorite) and then classic chapter books for kids: Roald Dahl, Famous Five, Secret Garden, Charlotte’s Web, to name just some. This voracious appetite always gave me a place to escape and create in my mind the most elaborate and colorful landscapes and adventures. My mum was an early years teacher and played a massive role in this discovery.

Growing up, did you have any specific role models or influences that shaped your perspective on education and creativity?

I always had my parents who encouraged me to embrace my creative imagination and to work hard at school. In fact, I loved every single second of school… until I got to secondary school; that’s when I really struggled with the structure and expected independence. I needed support and felt quite alone. By year 9, I had lost interest in school and began to ‘play up’. I was lost.

I left school with one GCSE (English) and tried to find my way in the world of work. It didn’t happen. Fortunately, my mum knew a tutor named Connie who worked at a nearby college. Pulling some strings, he managed to persuade the college to accept my application if I agreed to take my GCSEs and A Levels at the same time. I did! I passed… both, and then got accepted into university!

Connie was instrumental in that shift. He believed in me, and in turn, I believed in myself. Forever grateful!

Can you tell us more about your upcoming live tour, ‘Stop! It’s Grammar Time!’? What can fans expect from the show?

The show is a celebration of music, hip hop culture, books, reading, and language. Fun for the whole family, it’s going to be a musical adventure: beatboxing, dancing, rhyming, READING, rapping… you name it! I want to give kids a taste of hip hop culture, but in a safe creative space. I also want parents and guardians to have a good time and to reminisce on the good ol’ days of music. This is a show for everyone and strictly good vibes only! Whether you’re 6, 16, or 60, you will leave inspired to read and rap.

P.S I can’t wait for the parent rap battle!

You’ve mentioned leaving school with just an English GCSE. What challenges did you face during that time, and how did you overcome them?

Leaving school with only one GCSE really does alienate you in society. I immediately felt alone and powerless upon leaving school. I didn’t qualify for much. Aside from my writing and raps, I had nothing. Feeling like this meant I had no voice or outlet. And that’s when hip-hop and music entered my life. It spoke to me. The words echoed my experiences and thoughts and feelings, so I started to write back to the music and culture.

It became a form of therapy for me. I read books, listened to hip hop, and wrote raps every day. And each day I did this I grew in confidence and vocabulary. This gave me my voice back, so my thoughts could then crystallize into words. I was finally able to communicate effectively; I felt like I was being heard and understood. This validation process gave me confidence and a boost at the perfect time in my life.

MCGrammar

Returning to education and eventually becoming a successful teacher is an incredible journey. Were there moments of doubt or difficulty, and what motivated you to persevere?

There are always difficult moments. For me, this is when we learn the most. But with children and their future being your main motivation as a teacher, you can never give in. Every day you just step up to perform and make the learning fun. You connect with the kids on their level; their likes, dislikes, values, and passion. They become your crew. After all, you spend more time with them than their parents do every day – they, therefore, in turn become your responsibility. It’s a duty of care and, to be honest, a true honour. How can you not be motivated to give them the best of you? It happens organically in my opinion. You are in charge of their future and in time they will be in charge of ours.

Your new World Book Day song, ‘Readers are Leaders,’ is a powerful initiative. How did the idea for the song come about, and what message are you hoping to convey with it?

The song was written by myself and Mr. Logan as part of my performance piece for the Young Voices arena tour. That was the spark: an opportunity to write a song that 250,000 children would not only hear but also sing along to. What an incredible chance to share my message all about books and the power they possess. Hence the title: Readers are Leaders. Something I truly believe. Books are a passport or portal into worlds of imagination and adventure, and that’s exactly what the song celebrates. No matter what, they will always be there for you. At any time and anywhere. Whether it’s an adventure you seek, the answer to a question, a friend, an enemy — whatever it is, it’s in a book. And with almost a million kids in the UK right now without a single book this song is needed more than ever, as the profits from the sales go to the World Book Day charity to fund books for those children.

It’s fantastic that all profits from the sales of ‘Readers are Leaders’ will be donated to World Book Day. Can you elaborate on your connection with the charity and why it’s important for you to support their mission?

Being a WBD ambassador is an honor. As a teacher, it’s always such a special day celebrating the wonder of reading and books, so to be working with/alongside the charity using my music and raps to share their mission and message is a real ‘pinch me’ moment. They work wonders and so hard to make sure children all over the UK have the opportunity to access books and high-quality, inclusive and engaging texts. A mission that changes and saves lives. Books changed my life, so to join the WBD team was a dream come true.

The press release mentions that nearly a million children in the UK don’t own a single book. How do you hope your song and the associated donations will make a difference in addressing this issue?

I hope my song connects with everyone from all walks of life. I want the true message of WBD to be heard by all. It needs more eyes and ears, beyond the cute costumes and fancy dress. The power of music can never be underestimated: it brings people together, and I hope my song does exactly this and for the reason we are all here — to get books into the hands of kids and change a generation into readers and ultimately leaders.

Your journey from leaving school with just an English GCSE to becoming a successful teacher is inspiring. How did your love for hip-hop and rhymes play a role in your educational journey, especially when you returned to education?

Music and hip-hop was my outlet. A place I would go to escape. One day, it became more than that, a tool. My way of remembering and recalling information. As soon as I discovered my ability to rhyme, I realized I could apply it anywhere. So I did. All of my revision notes, lecture lessons, and mnemonics became raps. The rest is history. Jacob, a Dictaphone, and a beat equalled success!

How do you believe music, particularly hip-hop, can inspire kids to learn and read, and what impact do you think it has on their academic achievements?

Music gets kids hooked. They connect with the beats, remember the lyrics, vibe with the melodies, and dance to the rhythm. This instant emotional reaction is powerful, so mixing it with lessons, knowledge, and books makes total sense. Emotion creates motion. Let’s get kids moving and learning.

World Book Day is approaching on March 7th. How do you think events like World Book Day contribute to encouraging children to read for pleasure?

I think events like WBD raise an awareness that is essential for so many people: children, parents/guardians, educators, and of course the media. It’s a day of exposure and in the spotlight where the eyes of the world zoom in on literacy and books. That’s a great thing! Capitalizing on this moment is the key, and WBD do this so well. This is my aim too. I want WBD to be the spark that ignites and creates momentum so books and reading remain at the forefront and important all year round for children and their families. We have to keep fighting for this spotlight and support because the results speak for themselves: reading for pleasure will change your life for the better: mentally, academically, and professionally.

Your philosophy is that music inspires kids to learn and read. Could you share specific instances or stories where you’ve seen this philosophy in action and witnessed the positive effects on students?

Wow! I have so many, and each one of them moves me in a different way. The most powerful one happened at a school where a child stepped on stage and recited one of my songs about adverbs word for word with energy and so much swagger. The crowd went wild! I was shocked, honestly. It was like a rap legend had been born in the school that day. So much so, the headteacher began to cry. I spoke with her after the show, and she explained that that child was an elective mute and they hadn’t said a word all academic year. Nothing. But today they had rapped a whole song on stage in front of the whole school! It blew everyone’s mind. Another example of the power of music and what happens when we connect with that special someone and special something. I am so grateful for magic moments like this.

During the transition from being a teacher to pursuing music more actively, how did you manage the balance between these two aspects of your career?

They worked together. When I was at college I used music to learn. When I became a teacher, I used music to teach. Music has and will always be a part of me. It follows me. I am music and music is me.

You’ve performed in various countries, but now you’re taking on a headline tour in the UK. How does it feel to bring your show back home, and what are you most excited about?

It feels amazing! I have dreamt of an opportunity like this. Working on TV and on YT is incredible, but performing live and feeling that energy and vibe is in front of you is like nothing else. I can’t wait to meet the Grammar Gang face to face — after all they are why I am here doing what I am doing. I make these songs to help them and to make learning fun. Now I get to meet them. How cool is that!

MC Grammar

Apart from your headline tour, you’re also part of Young Voices. How does performing in a live arena setting contribute to the overall experience for you and the audience?

Simply put. It’s magic! The largest children’s choir in the world selling out arenas for 30 nights. Just wow! And I’m one of the performers? Seriously, even just saying that out loud now still makes me think is this even real? I am so grateful to be part of the team and learn so much from all of the crew too. The YV gang have been a dream to work with, and I have loved every single minute of it. If you haven’t been to a YV night, book a ticket as soon as you can. It’s an incredible experience for so many young minds.

After the live tour and current projects, do you have any future plans or projects in the pipeline that you can share with your fans?

So many plans and so many ideas, but I won’t reveal too much now. What I will say is that I want MC Grammar to have the answer to any question any child has in school. I want them to think ‘I bet MC Grammar has a song for that’. That’s the mission.

How do you see your role as MC Grammar evolving in the coming years, and are there any specific goals you hope to achieve in your career?

There’s no limit. I want my music to cover every subject and topic children want to learn about. I want to rap every book. I want to write my own books too. But, above all, I want to be that person that all children and parents can rely on to help them understand the learning and to have fun at the same time. To know that you make an impact and have an influence is a responsibility and something I take seriously. Whatever it takes to make learning fun and inclusive for all children so that no child is left behind is what I will do.

I also want to continue to be a voice for all of the educators out there who are doing such an awesome job every day. Teachers are real-life superheroes who empower our future for the better. We must respect them and protect them. Teachers, if you are reading this, I am going to continue to create and make tons of resources and music to help all of you on your amazing missions. Keep shining!

For those aspiring to follow a similar path, what advice do you have based on your own experiences in education and the music industry?

Do you. Believe in yourself and do what you do best (and believe in it fiercely) with passion. Do not wait to create. You don’t need a label or a production company to get started; you just need you, your ideas, and hard work. Oh, and remember the first time will never be right. It’s unlikely the second or third will be either, but that’s all part of the process. Be patient: design and refine, reflect and perfect.

Looking back, what would you tell your younger self at the beginning of your journey, knowing what you know now?

Honestly? Hang in there, kid. For now, just do what makes you happy. Because when you enjoy what you do and you wake up every day doing it: working on your craft, talent, and purpose, the rest just seems to fall into place. I don’t know if it’s meant to be or fate; all I know is that when you enjoy what you do, you do it well and in turn get better at it each day. That passion and purpose are always driven by your values. So think: what mark do you want to make on the world? What is your purpose? And what are you really passionate about? Somewhere in the answers to those questions lies your future. Work it out; go to work on it and be happy doing it. Do what you love; love what you do!

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